Emory's Andra Gillespie weighs in during a series of "first 100 days" events

By Susan Carini 04G

As the Trump White House neared its 100th day in late April, National Public Radio (NPR) launched town-hall events at four presidential libraries, including the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. The event—“A Nation Engaged: Power and the Presidency”—was hosted by Denis O’Hayer, the host of Morning Edition on WABE, and Debbie Elliott, national desk correspondent for NPR.

Emory sent one of its stars to illumine the panel—Andra Gillespie, associate professor of political science and director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute. Gillespie was joined by two former congressmen from Georgia—George “Buddy” Darden and Lynn Westmoreland, who between them advised five presidents.

Though political discussion these days can be fraught, this event featured abundant good humor. Darden, for instance, opined that Franklin Delano Roosevelt had “ruined it for everyone else” by acing his first one hundred days in 1933 amid the turmoil of the Great Depression, passing seventy-six bills aimed at reviving the economy.

Gillespie was a clear favorite, not just of the audience, who cheered a number of her points, but also of her fellow panelists. As discussion ensued about Russian hacking and possible collusion on the part of the Trump election team, Gillespie said that Americans are right to look askance at “competing press conferences among members of congressional committees and should insist on a level of decorum and civility that is not there now.”

Darden and Westmoreland’s questions for Gillespie included how to spur Congress to be more effective. Saying that “we like our congress people to run against Washington,” Gillespie recalled an age when elected officials—such as former Senator Sam Nunn and his family—lived in Washington and were part of the culture. Now, she said, it seems a liability to “go D.C.” Thus, many representatives spend little time there, some of them essentially living in their offices. Gillespie had the crowd laughing when she said, “I have my students, as part of their research, call members of Congress and ask them where they sleep.”

Gillespie also racked up points for saying that right now we have a lot of ethics customs, not laws, and that “during or after this presidency, we need to better define our ethical boundaries.”

Trump's infamous tweets also got play. The applause meter peaked when Darden said, “Tweet him right back and say how you feel. And, ultimately, push back by voting.”

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